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Growth of Incarceration in the United States: Exploring Causes and Consequences

NCJ Number
Date Published
464 pages
This book explores the causes and consequences of high rates of incarceration in the United States.
This book presents the results of research examining the proximate causes of the dramatic rise in incarceration rates in the United States and the social and economic consequences associated with the increase. The research was conducted by the Committee on the Causes and Consequences of High Rates of Incarceration in the United States of the National Research Council. The research revealed that one of the main causes for the increase in incarceration rates was the use of incarceration as a key instrument for crime control as indicated by the policy choices made by legislators during the 1980s. These legislative changes included increased sentence lengths, required prison time for minor offenses, and intensified punishment for drug crimes. The consequences resulting from the increase in incarceration rates include limited reduction in crime rates, limited effect on recidivism rates, poor and minority communities bearing a larger portion of higher rates of incarceration, and an increase in the disfranchisement of former prisoners leading to a weakening of economic power for low-income and minority communities. Based on these and additional findings, the report recommends that Federal and State policy makers revise current criminal justice policies in order to significantly reduce the rate of incarceration in this country. Changes to policy should focus on mandatory prison sentences and long sentences as well as ways to improve the experiences of incarcerated offenders and recently released offenders and reduce the unnecessary harm to their families and their communities. Suggestions for future research are also discussed. References and appendixes

Date Published: January 1, 2014